Captain Britain, The Sweeney and the Seventies.

Despite Captain Britain being a fictional superhero and me being a forty year old blogger with too much time on his hands we both have something in common, in that we are both children of the seventies. Cap made his debut in 1977 whereas I made mine a few years earlier, and I was a lot younger. However I like to think we both “grew up” in the Seventies so to speak.

So today I have decided to look back on my memories of the Seventies and see how much of an influence those years had on Captain Britain’s early stories. Read on to discover how Seventies cop shows, smoking and sci-fi films all – in my opinion –  had a direct effect on the origin of Captain Britain.

So let’s start by looking at the TV of the Seventies and a program that I think had a major influence on the design of Captain Britain’s world. No it wasn’t Dr Who, though I did discuss its influence on Cap here, I mean cop shows and one I was probably too young to be watching, The Sweeney.

Almost immediately as you read Cap’s if you’re a citizen of the UK you can’t help notice how Captain Britain’s Chief Inspector Thomas channels The Sweeney’s detectives.

Chief Inspector Thomas aka The Sweeney

Chief Inspector Thomas

 

The Sweeney cops

The Sweeney’s Regan and Carter

The reason I am sure is that maybe without the benefit of much reference material in the Seventies Captain Britain artist Herb Trimpe may well have turned to the TV for help, and the Sweeney was one of the most popular Seventies cop shows – well in my school anyway.

I even believe the Sweeney’s influence on Captain Britain extends to the Police Cars portrayed in early issues, let’s compare, here is a real Seventies Cop car

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s a Captain Britain Cop car

Seventies Captain Britain cops 2

And here is a Cop car from the Sweeney.

The Sweeney Car

Coincidence?  I think not, anyway time to move on.

A common chant on Seventies TV news and in the papers was the phrase, “nuclear power no thanks.” The reason behind this was the world’s growing desire to see the end of nuclear weapons and power plants that many believed were time bombs of the worst kind. I want to focus in on nuclear power plants as that is where Captain Britain worked.

Captain britain and Darkmoor Nuclear Centre

Nuclear power in the Seventies was a growing source of what was believed at the time to be safe energy without reliance on fossil fuels, and I remember barely a week going without the news covering demonstrations against anything nuclear. So it’s no surprise that when Claremont tried to make Captain Britain rooted in current – Seventies – culture that he chose nuclear power. Interestingly this was also the first reference to the fact that Captain Britain was a genius, something that became an erratic personality trait as his character grew.

Now another memory of the Seventies was triggered by the last panel of the above picture, let’s look at it in more detail.

Captain Britian physics genius

Yes Cap like a lot of people I knew in the Seventies smoked, hell Cap’s that hard he’s even smoking inside a nuclear power plant! Everyone as I grew up seemed to smoke due to I imagine the lack of health and safety info about its dangers, cigarettes and beer were even advertised in between kid’s Saturday morning TV shows in the UK. Smoking also invaded Seventies children’s lives even further as there were sweet cigarettes and pipes! Because of this large smoking culture it’s no surprise that Captain Britain lights up, but if memory serves me correctly this is the first and last time we see him with a pipe, though his battle with alcohol was to plague him for a lot longer

Licorice Pipe Candy

Children’s Licorice pipes

In the summer of 1977 Star Wars hit cinema screens and science fiction was never the same again, but there is one particular point in that film that to me is reflected in Captain Britain. You see in the film when Kenobi and Vader duel I can’t help but think of this scene from Captain Britain.

Captain Britain duels Darth Vader

To me this whole fight wears its Star Wars influence firmly on its sleeve even down to the design of the baddie and that the staff and sword wielded by the combatants could just as easily be lightsabers. Have a look at the Marvel version of the famous Star Wars duel below, and marvel at both scenes incredible sound effects.

star-wars-4

So there you have four – probable – Seventies influences on the early stories of Captain Britain. Influences I would like to point that are really only recognized by me casting my mind back nearly forty years to when I was very young. Agree or disagree please sound off in the comments section below.

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3 thoughts on “Captain Britain, The Sweeney and the Seventies.

  1. I think you’re spot on about the lack of visual references to England available to US artists in the 1970s. I have a copy of Master of Kung-Fu (#91 from 1980) where the letters page is filled with rants from UK readers about the inaccurate portrayal of London: “English phone-boxes are big and red and you can stand in them with ease … If I ever see another one of those stupid trashcan style mail boxes in place of our beautiful five-foot high round ‘pillar-boxes’, I shall scream”. The editor, Jim Salicrup replies “There are indeed a multitude of discrepancies between your real London and Shang-Chi’s mythic London. But believe it or not (and setting bone-headed mistakes such as American mistakes aside) , that ‘s just the way [writer and artist] Doug [Mensch] and Mike [Zeck] – and the majority of our American readers prefer it to be.”
    Salicrup also points out that Marvel’s Manhattan is also substantially different to the real Manhattan.

    Like

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